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Japanese Classic Car Show - Time-Honored

Visiting the annual Japanese Classic Car Show and a close-up look at six Hondas that defy their age.

Aaron Bonk
May 29, 2013
Htup 1304 01 o+japanese classic car show+fairgrounds Photo 1/9   |   Japanese Classic Car Show - Time-Honored

Since 2005 the Japanese Classic Car Show Association has done its part in helping to preserve Honda history. Typically held in Long Beach, California, JCCS plays host to cars that meet only two criteria: that they are of Japanese descent, and that they had rolled off assembly lines at least 25 years ago. Honda isn't the predominant make at JCCS; a herd of nearly 40 congregates in the midst of hundreds of Toyotas, Nissans, Datsuns, Subarus, Mazdas, Mitsubishis, and others. But the ones that do show face do so with their own stories.

Car: 1972 Z600
Owner: Tran Nguyen

After his friend's uncle passed down his classic Honda sport coupe nearly seven years ago, Tran Nguyen went on to regain its original glory. Even under the guidance of Southern California vintage Honda ace Tim Mings, though, Nguyen's Z600 overhaul took more than five years to complete. "The car was messed up," Nguyen recounts of the short-wheelbased two-door, but is quick to point out that the original 598cc, 36hp engine was able to be recommissioned. Nguyen's first-generation Honda micro-car saw all manner of restoration, culminating with freshly applied paint and rims from longtime Japanese wheel craftsmen Volk Racing. Honda's Z600 kei car holds a special place in the annals of Honda history, marking one of the few vehicles that were sold out of U.S.-based Honda motorcycle dealerships prior to the company's North American vehicle dealer network being established. This beauty also showed up in the pages of Honda Tuning in the form of a feature just a few years ago.

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Car: 1987 Straman CRX Si
Owner: Doug Hulsey

As you'd expect, sourcing a genuine Straman-converted CRX isn't easy. The Costa Mesa, California-based company, commissioned by American Honda in the late '80s, reportedly made just 310 of them, but Straman experts like Doug Hulsey are quick to tell you that the count is much more conservative, tallying only 126. Hulsey located Straman car number 103, complete with its original $5,000 convertible option, on Craigslist nearly seven years ago. Hulsey took delivery of the soft-top in drivable condition but with a rotted interior made up of a damaged dash, torn seats, and carpet in need of replacement. First profiled in Road & Track magazine in 1984, Straman's factory-authorized convertible CRX won the hearts of the handful of Honda faithful who longed for an open-top sports car reminiscent of the company's S600 roadster heritage.

Htup 1304 03 o+japanese classic car show+1987 straman CRX Si Photo 3/9   |   Japanese Classic Car Show - Time-Honored

Car:1987 CRX Si
Owner: Scott Harris

Scott Harris has no interest in restoring his '87 CRX Si. Instead, he plans on driving it. A lot. Harris' weekend-driven, track-flogged first-gen has been fully modified to SCCA CSP autocross specifications, according to its owner. "Nothing hasn't been touched," Harris says, before going on to tell of the brand-new Mugen limited-slip differential that he just "had to buy," and the original engine block that was completely rebuilt by none other than veteran Honda cylinder head expert Dan Paramore. First marketed in the U.S. as an economy car-and then later as an economy-minded sports car-the first-generation CRX marks the beginning of a lasting relationship between Honda Motor Company and sport compact car enthusiasts.

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Car: 1986 Prelude Si
Owner: Jason Hamamura

Jason Hamamura wasn't always a Honda fan, at least not until his dad-original owner of the family's '86 Prelude Si-handed it down to him. With only 133,000 miles on its odometer and in well-kept condition, Hamamura readily took on the role of preserving Honda's original sports car legacy. A daily driver for Hamamura, that doesn't mean his Si isn't used or won't undergo modifications. "I want more power, but I don't want to change the car's heritage," he's quick to point out. Hamamura's Si benefits from Honda's early fuel-injection technology-the first for the Prelude-along with other technical firsts for the brand, like pop-up headlights that when tucked away were designed to reduce drag at high speeds.

Htup 1304 04 o+japanese classic car show+1986 honda prelude si Photo 5/9   |   Japanese Classic Car Show - Time-Honored

Car: 1987 CRX Si
Owner: Christopher Hoffman

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Settling on a brand-new '87 CRX Si was easy for Christopher Hoffman, who'd shown interest in the Honda brand since the age of 14. The family's '77 Civic wagon that they'd previously cherished helped reinforce such sentiments. "I knew early on that it was something special," Hoffman says of the Si and the foresight that he had to keep it in pristine condition, beginning more than 25 years ago. Despite the CRX's showroom appearance, Hoffman says it remained a daily driver until 1995. Today, he boasts of the Si's original paint, interior, and engine bay that looks no more than five years old yet has never been degreased or even formally detailed. Even the original driver-side seat's bolsters appear as though they've never bolstered a thing in their lives. Of that, Hoffman simply says, "Care was taken to preserve all of this since day one."

Htup 1304 05 o+japanese classic car show+1987 honda CRX si Photo 7/9   |   Japanese Classic Car Show - Time-Honored

Car: 1980 Accord LX
Owner: Christopher Hoffman

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"I always had a soft spot for these," two-time classic Honda owner Christopher Hoffman says of his like-new '80 Accord LX. His story sounds made up but most assuredly is not. In 2011, when he purchased it, the top-of-the-line hatchback had accumulated no more than 17,000 miles. To be sure, a zero is not missing in that figure and, as you'd expect, a little old lady was involved in the transaction. "It was the most expensive Honda you could buy at the time," Hoffman says of when the LX trim first went on sale in 1979, and is then quick to mention how rarely he drives it. Designed to a be an expanded version of Honda's Civic, Hoffman's first-generation Accord predates the model's American-built period to a time when Honda's passenger cars were fully built and assembled in Japan.

Htup 1304 08 o+japanese classic car show+1980 honda accord LX Photo 9/9   |   Japanese Classic Car Show - Time-Honored
By Aaron Bonk
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